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tv   U.S. Senate Meets for Legislative Business  CSPAN  March 9, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EST

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this resolution ensures that the law is implemented the way congress wrote it. this resolution restores flexibility. this resolution preserves local decisionmaking. this resolution scuttles new and burdensome reporting requirements that are in the department regulation. this resolution ensures strong accountability for our schools, but it is state accountability. that's what we decided in our law. chaos? my distinguished friend from washington said chaos. the secretary of education has announced that states may continue to follow the exact same timetable that the former secretary, secretary king, announced for sending in their title 1 plans, and if they have questions about how to do that, they can read the law, they can read the guidance, they could read frequently asked questions or they could make a telephone call. this resolution does not in any
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way give the secretary new authority. in fact, it limits her authority and the authority of the next secretary because if we stand up and say that we're not going to allow any secretary of education, whether it's secretary king or secretary devos, to in 23 different instances in a regulation contravene the authority granted in a law, that means that we won't have secretaries imposing their own policies, we'll have congress writing the law. these regulations, the one we're overturning is not required by the law. it's allowed by the law, but it's not required by the law. school districts can read the law. future secretaries will be able to write regulations on this subject. of course they will. when you overturn a regulation, it does mean that the secretary can't issue a new regulation on substantially the same subject, but that simply means in a commonsense way that the secretary can't turn right
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around and do the same thing that we just overturned. so this is a question of whether we're going to restore the national school board that 85 senators voted to reverse, a question of whether you believe congress writes the law or the united states department of education writes the law. this resolution upholds the law that received 85 votes from united states senators. i urge my colleagues to vote aye, and an aye vote preserves the consensus, and a nay vote undermines the bipartisan consensus. i thank the president. i yield the floor. i yield back any remaining time. the presiding officer: all time is yielded back. the question is on passage of the joint resolution. the clerk will read the title of the joint resolution for a third time. the clerk: house joint resolution 57, providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, united
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states code of the rules submitted by the department of education and so forth. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or wishing to change their vote? seeing none, the yeas are 50, the nays are 49, and the joint resolution passed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
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the clerk: nomination, department of health and human services, se. ma verma of annan to be administrator for the centers for medicare and medicaid. mr. nelson: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: madam president, i come to the floor today with a heavy heart because ten years ago today, robert lessonson, a a -- robert levinson, a former f.b.i. agent, was detained in iran on the tourist island of kisch island in the persian gulf. bob, a long-time and very respected f.b.i. agent who had been retired, had served his country for 28 years. he is the longest held civilian in our nation's history. he's a husband, a father of seven and now a grandfather of
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six, and he deserves to be reunited with his family. since bob's detention, american officials have sought iran's cooperation in locating and returning bob to his family. and of course iranian officials have promised over and over their assistance, but after ten long years, those promises have amounted to nothing. bob still is not home. the bottom line, madam president, is that iran is responsible for returning bob to his family. if iranian officials don't have bob, then they sure know where to find him, so today we renew
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our call on iran to make good on those promises and return bob, return him where he ought to be, with his family. iran's continued delay in returning him, in addition to the very serious disagreements the united states has with the government of iran about its missile program, its sponsorship of terrorism and its human rights abuses, it's just another obstacle iran must overcome if it wants to improve relations with the united states. we also urge the president and our allies to keep pressing iran to make clear that the united states has not forgotten bob and won't forget him until he's home. obviously, we owe this to bob, a
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servant of america, and we certainly owe it to his family. and so to bob's family, we recognize your tireless efforts over the years for ten long years to bring your dad home, and we offer our sympathies. madam president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: madam president, i have nine requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. these have been approved by both the majority and minority leaders. the presiding officer: duly noted. mr. cornyn: madam president, this week, the senate continues to press forward on a number of congressional review actions. in this case, of disapproval that will roll back or repeal many obama-era regulations that have hurt people across the country and strangled our economic growth.
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by doing away with excessively burdensome rules and regulations, we're delivering on our promise to the american people to actually do what we can to help the economy, to grow the economy, to create jobs and not hurt it with unnecessary and expensive and burdensome red tape. earlier this year, we began the legislative process to deliver on our biggest promise -- repealing and replacing obamacare with more affordable and more accessible health care options, options that will work for all american families. the american health care act, introduced in the house on monday, is the first step in fulfilling that promise. obamacare is collapsing. it's already failed countless families across the country, and it's forced people off of good insurance plans that they liked and strong-armed them to sign up for plans that were more
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expensive, offered less care and didn't even let them use the doctor of their choice. so we would be revisiting health care even if hillary clinton had been elected president of the united states because obamacare is in a meltdown mode. obamacare's also saddled our economy with more than a trillion dollars in new taxes. most of those taxes are so hidden that most americans are probably not aware of the fact that there is even a tax charged on their premium for their health insurance policy, for example. well, all these taxes end up being absorbed and have to be paid by american families, and it's -- at its very core, the individual mandate of obamacare was a major power play and overreach by the federal government. basically, what it said is if you don't buy the
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government-prescribed health insurance plan, we're going to fine you. we're going to penalize you. the government should not be able to force anyone to spend their own hard-earned money for something that they don't want but buy under threat of financial penalty. the american people have spoken up loudly and clearly and rightfully demanded that congress do better, and we will. since the 2010 time frame in which our colleagues on the other side of the aisle passed obamacare with 60 votes in the senate and a majority in the house and with the white house, they have lost the majority in the senate, they have lost the majority in the house and they have lost the white house. i think obamacare has been one of the major reasons why, because people, once the more
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they learn about it, the less they like it. and they don't appreciate washington forcing them to do things that they don't want to do with their own money. about two months ago, one of my constituents in texas wrote me about her skyrocketing health care costs. before last year, her premium was about $325 a month. a short time later, that was revised to $436 a month. the same texan later moved from one city to another, and because of her change of address, her premium jumped to $625 a month. starting at $325, now $625. in 2017, thanks to obamacare, it went up again to an astronomical $820 a month. it started at $325 before
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obamacare and now is $820 a month. i don't know many people who could absorb that kind of increase in their health care insurance premium. so in about a year, her monthly health care payment jumped by more than 150%, 150%. that's hardly what i would call affordable, and thus the misnamed affordable care act should be the unaffordable care act. to make matters worse, she then found that her provider would be putting a halt to individual plans in texas, something that's been a recurring theme in my state and across the country, so that while president obama said if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, as a result of obamacare, she was not able to keep her plan, and so she had to find a new plan and a new
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doctor. a plan ultimately with less care, less flexibility and even a higher price. so suffice it to say for this constituent of mine and for millions more like her, obamacare's not working. obamacare's not affordable, and it's hurting texas. so it's time for congress to keep its promise that we have made in every election since, that given the privilege of governing, of being in the majority, being in a position to change things, we would repeal and replace obamacare with the options that fit the need of all americans and their families at a price they could afford. mr. sanders: would my friend from texas yield for a question? mr. cornyn: i will not, not at this time. fortunately, we now have a president in the white house who clearly sees the failure of obamacare and wants to do something about it.
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and republicans in congress have introduced a bill now being marked up in the house that the president can actually sign once it's passed to get us out of this mess. the american health care act is the vehicle to do just that, and i'm glad president trump endorsed the plan earlier this week. it is a work in progress. the house committees are marking it up as we speak. there will be changes along the way, but ultimately the house will pass the bill and send it to the senate, and then we'll have an opportunity to offer our amendments during the course of its passage. the important point to make, though, is this legislation will actually put patients first so that they're not forced into a plan that they don't want or provides coverage that they can't afford. it does away with the outrageous new taxes and the penalties that have made the economy worse off
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and made life harder for american families. the legislation will also give families more flexibility so that they can get the health care specific to their needs and that actually works for them. if they decide, for example, to get a major medical policy which is relatively inexpensive and then use health savings account to use pretax dollars to put in a health savings account to pay their regular doctors' visits, they will have the flexibility to do that. so this legislation promotes sensible reforms that will make sure big-ticket items like medicaid also are put on a more sustainable fiscal path. i've heard some suggestions that this legislation actually guts medicaid. well, that's false. that's not true. it actually continues at current levels in this shared state and federal program, but it's subject to a cost-of-living
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index that will actually put medicaid on a more sustainable path. just as importantly, it will also return the authority back to the states to come up with the flexible programs they need in order to deal with the specific health care needs of the people in their state. so this legislation makes sure that medicaid doesn't lose sight of its design which is to serve the most vulnerable among us who can't afford access to quality health care. it provides them that access and to better access by providing flexibility to the states. we know that the states and the federal government spend an awful lot of money on medicaid. in texas, for example, my state spent close to a third of its budget on medicaid last year. a third of all state spending. and its uncapped, so it goes up every year by leaps and bound.
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under the american health care act, medicaid will be tied to the number of people in the state using it, a per capita rate, which makes sense, and it represents the first major overhaul of the program in decades. so obamacare left us with unchecked government spending, more taxes, and less health care options. this bill is the opposite of obamacare in every way. it will control spending in a commonsense way. it will repeal obamacare's taxes and the individual and employer mandate, and it will provide more flexible free market options for families across the country. that's not just about the bumper sticker or the advertisement. that is actually what's contained in the legislation. and i look forward to working with my colleagues in the house
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and senate and now in the trump administration to get this done in the next few weeks. madam president, i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. a senator: madam president, i ask for the vitiation of the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. markey: thank you, madam president, very much. well, here we go again, debating the nomination of a donald trump candidate who is both unqualified and reflects an extreme ideology for the department she will oversee. in this case it is seema verma and the department is the centers for medicare and medicaid, or c.m.s., as it is often called. now, why is c.m.s. an acronym for a department that most americans don't even know about so important that its nominee would make it to the floor of the united states senate for debate? because 100 million americans receive health insurance coverage under one of our federal insurance programs -- medicare, medicaid, the
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children's health insurance program, and the health insurance marketplace created by the affordable care act, all of which is under the jurisdiction of c.m.s. c.m.s. is the traffic cop of our federal government health care system. it makes sure that americans have access to affordable quality health care by administering and overseeing all aspects of our federal health programs. it promotes health care innovation and works to reduce waste and fraud and abuse throughout our health care system. but under a trump administration and republican leadership, which has vowed to repeal obamacare and get rid of medicaid as we know it, the leader of c.m.s. will be the person responsible for reducing federal spending on public insurance programs, particularly for the poor, for the elderly and for the disabled.
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seema verma is president trump's nominee to try to meet that misguided and heartless challenge. republicans have an ancient animosity towards medicaid, and it would seem that mrs. verma shares that prejudice. mrs. verma is most well known for proposals that penalize and create roadblocks to coverage for low-income americans. she supports changes to medicaid that would make it harder for those who need medicaid to access it. this stands as fundamentally antithetical to the core principles of medicaid which is providing coverage for those who cannot afford it. and for the most part, we're talking about poor people in the united states of america in 2017. despite the fact that research shows the onerous premiums are
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cost sharing for individuals serve as barriers for enrolling in and obtaining care, mrs. verma supported a plan to require medicaid enrollees to pay premiums through monthly contributions to a health savings account. guess what? people who are poor enough to qualify for medicaid rarely have enough money to dedicate to savings accounts of any kind. they're living day to day, week to week, mont to monlt. -- month to month. it will be grandma and grandpa who will pay the highest price. medicaid isn't just a line in our health care budget. it's a lifeline for millions of seniors in every state of this
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country. here are the facts about the importance of medicaid to our seniors. it is anticipated that by 2060 there will be more than 98 million americans over the age of 65. the number of individuals over the age of 85 is expected to reach 14.6 million in 2040, triple the number in 2014. of this population, 70% will likely use long-term services and supports of which medicaid is the primary player. medicaid spent $152 billion on long-term support services, services like nursing home care for seniors in 2014. let me say that again. the entire defense budget is about $550 billion. we spent as a nation $ 152
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billion, a little less than one-third of the defense budget, to take care of grandma and grandpa in nursing homes in 2014. they may have alzheimer's. they may have other diseases. but unfortunately, most families can't save $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 for year after year of nursing home coverage. that's grandma and grandpa. the anticipated growth rate for medicaid beneficiaries over the age of 65 is four times the rate of growth for all medicaid beneficiaries. the only thing growing faster than the need for medicaid is the number of people who are opposed to repealing the medicaid expansion under obamacare. medicaid pays for nearly two-thirds of individuals living in nursing homes. can i say that again?
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medicaid pays for two-thirds of individuals living in nursing homes in our country. so if you know a family member who's in a nursing home and has alzheimer's or some other disease, you can just assume that medicaid is helping that family to ensure that grandma or grandpa is getting the care which they deserve for what they did to build this great country. this will place additional strain on already strapped state budgets. nursing facility care is -- states may cover the service by further cutting paymentses to provider by removing benefits that seniors want and need. it also puts more strain on working-class families. because if medicaid isn't picking up the cost of putting your grandma in a nursing home,
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that comes out of the pocket of other contributors to the family. but, unfortunately, republicans want to undermine the medicaid expansion under the affordable care act that is benefiting millions of seniors. they want to force seniors to pay more out-of-pocket for health care or forgo coverage because they cannot afford it. what republicans refuse to accept is that the affordable care act is the most important program we have put in place for seniors since medicare. the uninsured rate for americans aged 50 to 65 dropped by nearly half after passage of the a.c.a., the insurance rate of the older population was 4.6% while the uninsured rate was 8.7 are%. almost double. not only does this amount to an
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age tax by substantially increasing the amount an insurance company can charge for an older person, it provides older americans with fewer resources that what is available under obamacare for their increased costs of care. as republicans attempt -- c.m.s. is authorized to minimize the unwarranted regulatory burdens of obamacare. in simple terms, that means undoing and privatizing vital provisions of the affordable care act as soon as possible under the law. c.m.s. has picked up a sledgehammer. it has already proposed new rules slashing open enrollment times for the exchanges by over a month. it has proposed rules to relax the minimum standards for what qualifying health plans sold on the exchanges have to cover.
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now more than ever we need a leader at c.m.s. that understands and respects the need for health care for our seniors. and for so many of them, that need is met by medicaid. ms. verma's disdain for medicaid is an insurmountable problem for the older americans who rely on this fundamental program. given her lack of experience and extreme views, several major groups that represent millions of working-class americans have voiced strong opposition to her confirmation. this is what the american federation of state, county, and phaou imunicipal employees says, leading c.m.s. is too important a role to be held by an individual that -- that they would jeopardize the health and lives of ordinary americans. i could not agree more. seema verma is the wrong person to run c.m.s. at a time when
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millions of americans are relying on the dignity and courage -- coverage that medicare and medicaid provide. instead of cutting funding for defense, donald trump wants to the cut programs for the defenseless. the trump administration would rather be -- bestow billions more on the pentagon for new nuclear weapons that we do not need and cannot afford, all the while supporting cuts to medicaid and senior health. we should be cutting minute men missiles instead of medicaid, we should cut gravity bombs instead of medicare. the cut to medicaid would be a nightmare for millions. i am opposed to seema verma's nomination and i call on my colleagues to join me in voting no on her nomination when it is
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presented here on the senate floor. thank you, mr. president. i yield the balance of my time. the presiding officer: the senator from colorado. mr. gardner: mr. president, i rise today to support the nomination of kneel gorsuch to the united states -- neil gorsuch to the united states supreme court. as i have come to the floor and talk about before, judge gorsuch is a fourth generation coloradan who serves on the tenth circuit court of appeals, u.s. circuit courthoused in denver, colorado, it oversees 20% of the land mass of colorado including states like oklahoma, colorado and states in between. once confirmed, neil gorsuch will be the second coloradan to serve on the supreme court. we have a history of another
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judge who served on the supreme court. justice byron white also led the nfl in rushing. if judge gorsuch is confirmed, justice gorsuch would join byron white as another coloradan on the high court. justin rut religion received his -- rutledge received his degree from the university of colorado. mr. gorsuch was confirmed to the tenth circuit court 11 years ago now by a unanimous voice vote. he was so well st-rtd that there wasn't even a rollcall vote taken in this chamber. it was acclimation by voice vote. his nomination was deemed so noncontroversial, the last time that senator graham was the only committee member to attend.
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you may ask yourself what made and continues to make judge gorsuch such a mainstream nominee. i don't think we need to look any further than his original committee questionnaire to see that he possesses the right teplment and -- temperament and view. i thought it would be important to read this from 11 years ago when he was confirmed to the tenth circuit court. the questionnaire he filled out for the judiciary committee included his response to the judicial activism and what it means to neil gorsuch prior to his confirmation to the tenth circuit. here's what he replied to the judiciary committee in that committee questionnaire. to quote neil gorsuch, the constitution requires federal judges to strike a delicate
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balance. the judiciary has a defined and limited charter. judges must allow the branches of government to flourish and to make laws appropriate to the facts and circumstances of the day. judges must avoid the temptation to usurp the roles of the legislative and executive branches and appreciate the branches these institutions have in crafting and adapting social policy derived from the consent and mandate of the people to do so. at the same time the founders were anxious to ensure that the judicial branch is not subservient to the other branches of government recognizing that it is critical to a well-functioning democracy. it imposes the vital work of vindicating civil rights and ensuring equal treatment under the law and helping to make real for all citizens the constitutions promised of self-government. there may be no firmly fixed
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formula to strike the balance in specific cases but there are many guide posts in the best traditions of our judiciary. a wise judge recognize that's his or her own judgment is only a weak read. for example, a good judge recognize that's many of the lawyers in cases reaching the courts of appeal have lived with and thought deeply about the legal issues before the court for months or years. a lawyer in the well is not to be treated as a cat's paw, but as a valuable colleague whose thinking is to be mind and tested and to be treated with respect and common courtesy. a good judge will diligently study counsel's briefs and digest them before argument and listen to the arguments made by his or her colleagues at the bar. a good judge will recognize that few questions in the law are truly novel. that precedents in the vast body of federal law reflect the
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considered judgment of those who come before us and embody the settled expectation of those in our own generation. a good judge will seek to honor precedent and strive to avoid its displaysment. a good judge will listen to his or her colleagues and strive to reach consensus with them. every judge brings a different and valuable perspective to the office. a good judge will appreciate the different experiences and perspective of his or her colleagues and know that reaching consensus is not always easy, but that the process of getting there often tempers the ultimate result ensuring that the ultimate decision reflects the wisdom of multiple individuals of disparate backgrounds. throughout the process of adjudicating an appeal, a good judge will question the positions exposed by the litigants and his or her own perceptions. and a good judge will critically
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examine his or her own ideas as readily and openly as the ideas advanced by others. a good judge will not preclude the possibility of changing his or her mind at any stage. pride of position, fear of embarrassment associated with changing one's mind, along a -- along, of course, with personal politics or policy preferences have no useful role in judging. regular and healthy doses of humility about one's own's ability and conclusions always do. this is the response that judge, then neil gorsuch, prior to becoming judge gorsuch, gave to the senate judiciary committee to a response and questionnaire about judicial activism, about what makes a good judge, talking about fidelity to precedent, talking about reaching a conclusion that disagrees with one's own personal opinions,
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making sure we respect the different branches of government, making sure that you listen to your colleagues who are arguing a case who have spent years to get to know the case and scrubbing your mind to question the positions that you thought you had to make sure that they mesh with the law, not opinion. judge gorsuch, when he was introduced at the white house nominated by the president said -- and i will para phrase -- a judge who agrees with every opinion he reaches is probably a bad judge. the institution that we serve in has that fidelity to the constitution that we must preserve, that we must guard. guardians of the constitution that judges represent, something that we confirm, that's our job to make sure that the kind of judge we place on courts represent the kind of judge that neil gorsuch truly is. mr. president, it's this temperament, the fidelity to the constitution, this appropriate
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temperament that has made judge gorsuch a consensus pick in the past, and i believe could be a consensus pick in the near future. it's reflected in the fact that on february 23, senator bennet and i along with the judiciary committee received a letter from colorado's diverse legal community supporting judge gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court. the letter reads as follows, as members of the colorado legal community, we are proud to support the nomination of judge neil gorsuch to be the next supreme court justice. we hold a diverse set of political views as republicans, democrats, and independents. many of us have been critical of actions taken by president trump. nonetheless we all agree that judge gorsuch is exceptionally well qualified to join the supreme court. he deserves an up-or-down vote. we know judge gorsuch to be a person of utmost character. he is fair, decent and honest, both as a judge and as a person. his record shows that he
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believes strongly in the independence of the judiciary, judge gorsuch has a well-earned representation as an excellent jurist, voted with the majority in 98% of the cases he heard on the tenth circuit, many of whom were appointed by democratic presidents. seven opinions have been affirmed by the u.s. supreme court, four unanimously, and none has been reversed. we ask that colorado's senators join together an support this highly qualified nominee from colorado regardless of the politics involved and prior confirmation efforts including what many to be considered the mistreatment of judge garland's nomination. a filibuster will do colorado no good. judge gorsuch deserves a fair shake in the nomination process. please vote for judge gorsuch's confirmation to the supreme court. mr. president, this letter from james hr*euon is another -- lyon
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is snore letter talking about the confirmation -- is another letter talking about the confirmation of judge gorsuch. judge gorsuch is an exceptionally qualified jurist, to use their boards and deserves a fair shake in the confirmation process that includes a timely up-or-down vote. i i ask unanimous consent to submit this letter for the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. gardner: i look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle to make sure that we fill this vacancy on the supreme court with one of this nation's truly brilliant legal minds. mr. president, i thank you, and i yield the floor. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. a senator: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, i come to the floor to speak about legislation i recently introduced although it's a follow-on to legislation i pursued over a number of years. we've now introduced in this
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congress the cuba trade act. this is legislation which would lift the trade embargo to allow farmers and ranchers, small businesses and other private sector industries to freely conduct business, to sell products, agriculture products in particular to the nation of cuba, to its people. last month i spoke about the terrific difficulties our farmers in kansas and across the country are facing due to low commodity prices. the farm economy has fallen by nearly 50% since 2013 and that decline is expected to continue in 2017 making this perhaps if not the -- certainly one of the worst economic times, economic downturns in farm country since the great depression. in 2016 the harvest in our state and across much of the country were record breaking yields. historic in their magnitude, in fact. what that means is there are still piles of wheat, corn and other grains all across kansas
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just sitting on the ground next to the grain bins that are already filled to capacity. to sell this excess supply, our farmers need more markets to sell food and fiber that they produce. approximately 95% of the world's customers live outside the united states borders. markets in the united states, they'll continue to grow and they'll involve -- evolve and we'll continue to meet the domestic consumer demand providing the best, highest quality, safest food supply in the world. but in order to boost prices for american farmers, we need more markets. we need them now. we need them in the future. and we need to be able to indicate to our farmers that hope is in the works in global markets. we've talked about the importance of trade, of exports in the united states, particularly the citizens of kansas. but that is particularly true for an agricultural state like ours where again 95% of the consumers live some place outside the united states.
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cuba is only 90 miles off our border. they offer a potential for increased exports, of all sorts of products but especially kansas wheat. and in fact, we -- while we're introducing this legislation now, we started down this path two increase our ability to sell agricultural commodities, food and medicine to cuba back when i was a member of the house of representatives. i offered an amendment then to an appropriation bill that lifted the embargo, the ability to sell, that would allow the ability to sell those food, ail cultural commodities and medicine to cuba for cash upfront. and that bill was passed. it was controversial then. this issue of whether -- what our relationship ought to be with cuba has always been contentious, but i remember the vote was about i think 301-116. a majority of republicans and majority of democrats said it's time to do something different with our relationship with cuba.
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this was a significant step in opening up the opportunity to market american -- the products of american farmers and ranchers to that country. no longer was food, medicine and agriculture commodities prohibited from being sold. and it worked for a little while, but unfortunately in 2005, the treasury department changed the regulations and it complicated the circumstance and really related to the embargo. cuba imports of the vast majority of its food. in fact, wheat is cuba's second largest import, second only to oil. and a point i would stress is that this is a unilateral sanction. keep in mind that when we don't sell agricultural commodities to cuba, somebody else does. while our unilateral trade barriers block our own farmers and ranchers from filling the market, willing sellers such as canada and france, china and others benefit at the american farmers' expense.
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when we can't sell wheat that comes from a kansas wheat field to cuba, they're purchasing that wheat from france, from canada, from other european countries. when the president's rice crop can't be sold in cuba, it's not that they're not buying rice. they're buying it from vietnam, china or elsewhere. it costs about seven or 7 a ton to ship the grain from the european union. this competitive advantage we lose because of the regulations that are in place that drive up the costs of cuba consumers dealing with united states. to understand what we're missing out on in cuba, consider our current relationship -- trade relationship with the dominican republic. the d.r. is a nearby nation. income levels an diet are similar to cuba. between 2013 and 2015, the
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dominican republic imported an average $1 billion in farm products. during the same time span cuba imported $262 billion. that's right, $1 billion of exports that u.s. farmers are missing of that opportunity because of the restrictions. this example illustrates the substantial potential that exists for increased sales. the cuba trade act that i introduced seeks to amend our own country's laws so that american farmers can operate on a level playing field with the rest of the worldle while boosting american exports remains a primary goal, i think there is an opportunity for us to increase the reforms to improve the lives of the cuban people as well. i've often said here on the senate floor and on the house floor and back home in kansas, we often say, we'll try something once.
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if it doesn't work, we might try it again. maybe we try it a third or fourth time, after 50 years of trying to change the cuban government through this embargo, many kansans would say it's time to try something else. today the embargo hurts our own national interests by restricting freedoms. in my view it is that time to make a change and we ought to be able to sell wheat, rice, and other agricultural commodities from the united states for cash to cuba, and this legislation would allow that at no expense to the american taxpayer. mr. president, i also would ask unanimous consent to be able to have my next remarks shown in a different place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, there's a lot to be proud about -- from my view, of being a kansan.
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we have lots of challenges in our state. we have undergoing serious ones at the moment. for those of you who noticed on the news, although it's not particularly a story in the nation's capital, but kansas is ablaze. fires are devastating acres and acres, nearly 700,000 acres have been burned. fires have started, we've had winds for the last three days 50 to 60 miles per hour and we've had dozens of communities and counties that have been evacuated. lots of places have been hard hit. my own county of rooks has experienced fires, hutchinson had to evacuate 10,000 people, which we consider in our state a pretty big place. they've been rampant and real and had significant consequences to many, many lives in our state. as people do know, kansas is an agriculture place.
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we raise lots of crops, but we're certainly a livestock state and our ranchers are experiencing the significant challenges that come from loss of pasture, the death of their cattle, the burning of their fences . i was -- on my way over here, i was reading a couple of articles that appeared in the kansas press that i thought i wanted to bring to my colleagues' attention. there's nothing here that necessarily asks for any kind of government help, but it does highlight the kind of people i represent. there's a farm in clark county, the county seat is ashland. 85% of the grassland, 85% of the acres in that county have been burned. this means the death of hundreds of thousands of cattle. make sure that i said that clearly, it means the death of hundreds, if not thousands of
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cattle. ashland has a population of about 900 or 1,000. it's the biggest town in the county and its future rests in large part upon what happens in agriculture. there's lots of great ranch families in our state. one of those is the gardners. their story is told a bit in the wichita eagle, in today's edition. they are known as some of the best ranchers in the country. for more than 50 years they provided the best angus cattle. they have customers across the country, but it's a family ranch. this is a multigeneration and three brothers ranch topgt. it's not -- together. it's not an unusual way we do business in kansas. it's one of the ways that economic agriculture presents in our state. one of the reasons i appreciate the opportunity to advocate on
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behalf of farmers and ranchers, it's one of the last few places where sons an daughters work side by side with moms and dads, grandchildren grow up knowing grandparents. our character is often transmitted from one generation to the next because we're still able to keep the family together working from generation to generation. the gardners are ampl examples f that. but i wanted to tell the story of mr. gardner as reported by the "wichita eagle." mr. gardner said he was slowly driving by some of the cattle that died in this -- in this massive wildlife. he said they never had a chance, the fire was so fast. his ranch is one of the most
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respected. the quality of the angus cattle have been one of pride for more than 50 years. they very endured plenty of bu bumps during five generations of ranching. the drought and dust of the 1930s was tough and even dryer times in the 1950s. five years ago the family -- five years ago we had another drought in our state that was so devastating. he said his family lost 2,000 acres when they couldn't make a payment to the bank. bliss ardz in 19 -- biz adders in -- blizzards in 1992 killed a lot of the cattle. the point i want to make is there are people who are responding and i want to thank those who are responding. this isn't expected to go away
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any time soon. mr. gardner said more hay is on the way. the process of rebuilding fences will begin hopefully in a few week. he said that there are relief teams coming from two eastern states and they will work on his fences and to do so without pay. truckloads of hay are already en route. the story indicates that many of the truckloads of hay are coming from ranchers who in the past bought livestock from the gardners. mr. gardner's veterinarian said that the gardners have been long known for taking exceptional care of their customers. and he said it is time for the customers to repay them. the gardners are the cream of the crop like their cattle. i'm not so -- not surprised so many people want to them.
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the author of this story said that mr. gardner picked up his cellphone -- the reporter said that many calls were from clients to send their best and asked how they can help, how were the gardners holding up? mr. gardner says it is special when you hear a pause on the other end of the line -- it's a pause because the person who called is crying because they care that much. it's like that with ranching, mr. gardner says, we're all a family. it's a great thing about our state. it's like that with kansas. we're all a family. but the fact that his family is still alive, he tells the story of not knowing whether his brother and his wife were alive. the fire swept around them but they found a place that avoided the fire that had a wheat field
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where the wheat is so green and short the fire didn't intrude. but he stopped his truck to think a bit and the story indicates, to sob a bit. he watched as his brother mark and wife eva disappeared behind a wall of fire as they tried to save horses and dogs at their home. ultimately the house was destroyed. mr. gardner, the one the reporter is talking to, i had no choice but to turn around and walk away, the fire was all around me. for a half-hour i didn't know if my brother and his wife were dead or alive. he said that his brother and wife gathered in the middle of that wheat field, so short and green it wouldn't burn. he staffs so smoky beings i didn't even know -- smoky, i didn't know exactly where they were. when a firefighter came by and told us everybody made it out,
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that's when i -- that's when i knew mark and everybody was alive and everything0 would be all right. i'll i'm telling you that's when you you learn what is important. today i come to the senate floor to express my gratitude for being able to represent kansans like the guard nester and -- gardners and those who know how they live is important. to thank those people not just from kansas but across the country who rallied to the cause to make sure there is a future for these families and for the farming and ranching prayses -- operations. it's a great country where we care so much for each other and it is exemplified in a time of disaster across my state. i would encourage my colleagues in kansas that we behave the way that kansas farmers and ranchers
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do, live live for the things that meaning -- live life for the things that are meaningful and take care of each other. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. moran: mr. president, i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: yes.
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a senator: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate do hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of seema verma to be the administration of the department of health and human services signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is, is it the sense of the senate that debate on the nomination of seema verma of van van to be administrator of the centers for medicaid and medicare services shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll,
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please. vote:
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